Burma adjourns talks on new civilian constitution

THE military junta in Burma yesterday called an abrupt halt to a constitutional convention in the capital, Rangoon, two days after it opened, and sent some 700 delegates home until 1 February. Only two one-hour sessions had been held before the abrupt adjournment.

The convention chairman, Major-General Myo Nyunt, said the pause was to give delegates time to study proposals for a new constitution, but some observers suggested the motive might have been to distract attention from a protest by Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader under house arrest since July 1989. She has refused outside offers of food, timing what has now become a hunger strike to coincide with the beginning of the convention.

The gathering in Rangoon is being depicted by the junta - the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) - as the first step towards the possible restoration of civilian rule. The convention has received extensive publicity within Burma. Restrictions on visits by foreign journalists have been eased as the Slorc attempts to improve its image.

Diplomats and exiled opposition figures believe, however, that the main purpose is to legitimise continued military rule. The European Community refused to send observers. Gen Myo Nyunt told the opening session on Saturday: 'To put it frankly, the maintenance of national stability without the participation of the tatmadaw (military) is extremely risky and dangerous.'

The National League for Democracy (NLD) won the May 1990 elections by a landslide, despite the confinement of Ms Suu Kyi. The Slorc ignored the result, however, imprisoning hundreds of party members and forcing many NLD leaders to leave the country. Although the junta pays little heed to Western opinion - the awarding of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to Ms Suu Kyi made no difference to its treatment of her - pressure from South-east Asian neighbours and Japan appears to have persuaded the military to make cosmetic changes. Some political prisoners were released, and Ms Suu Kyi's British husband, Michael Aris, was allowed to visit her last May for the first time in more than two years.

Last month Mr Aris, an Oxford don, said his wife had decided to refuse all outside help and had asked him not to visit her, fearing this might weaken her resolve in a battle of wills with the Slorc. The adjournment of the convention, which surprised delegates, will enable the military to usher foreign journalists out of Burma just when the confrontation with Ms Suu Kyi may be coming to a head.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?